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Starcraft II review

Starcraft 2
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £35
inc VAT

It’s a traditional RTS, but updated for the 21st century with loving care and attention.

The original Starcraft was released back in 1998, and it’s a testimony to the game’s quality that its Brood War expansion is still played today on the professional gaming circuit. Of course, the developer, Blizzard (of World of Warcraft fame), has always had high standards.

Blizzard has taken a no-risk approach in updating its classic. Starcraft 2 is real-time strategy from its late nineties heyday. You start with a base, you harvest resources to build other structures and units, building these unlocks more powerful units, and so you build up a powerful army to bludgeon your opponent with. It may be conservative, but the effort lavished on every part of the game is obvious.

All three races from the original game make a return. This first release, with its Wings of Liberty subtitle, sets its single-player campaign around rebel Jim Raynor and his rag-tag Terran forces. Two upcoming expansion packs will deliver single-player campaigns for the technologically-advanced Protoss and the Geiger-esque Zerg. All three races are available immediately in multi-player, though, which we’ll come to later.

The 30-odd missions of the single-player campaign are a surprisingly varied bunch, and far more than a primer for the multi-player mode. In fact there are additional units here that don’t appear in competitive play, such as the flame-thrower wielding Firebats and hit-and-run Diamondback tanks. Practically every mission has an innovative twist that lifts it above the usual, ‘destroy all enemies’, objectives.

In one mission we hunted down supply trains that snaked across the map. Another saw us fighting off Zerg-infected humans from fortified bases by night, and then sallying out in the day to destroy their nests while they were inactive. One map was flooded by lava tides every five minutes, forcing our forces to cower on high ground till the magma subsided – the only problem being that all the precious resources were on the deadly flood plains. All the missions have additional objectives, and these change based on the difficulty level.

Eschewing any attempt at gritty realism, both the units and maps burst with colour. Everything is lovingly detailed, and units each have their own character thanks to great design, animation and sound effects. The maps look great, with lots of variety in their look and feel. There are no complex camera controls here, you can zoom in and out and twist the camera momentarily to see things for another angle; but none of this is at all necessary, which leaves you free to get on with the task at hand.

In between missions you can explore Raynor’s battleship. Here you can upgrade your units’ abilities and hire elite mercenary units to support your forces – both of which are paid for out of cash earned from completing missions. Most missions also provide Zerg or Protoss research opportunities, which let you make more radical upgrades to your forces. For example, you can choose between upgrading your command base’s resource collecting capabilities (boring, but useful) or fit it with a big gun and extra armour (fun, but hopefully unnecessary).

All this is presented as a series of beautifully rendered rooms. There are some great characters to interact with, and the plot is captivating for what is basically a stereotypical space opera based around a series of battles. We particularly like voice acting, and the luscious cut-scenes that punctuate key moments.

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